“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
(Isaiah 58:6-7 ESV)
This week we commenced the season of Lent. As we come to Lent, so often it causes us to do some introspection. We examine our hearts and recognize our sin and our need to repent. We consider ways to fast in or even to take on spiritual disciplines in order that we might be constantly reminded of Jesus’ fast in the wilderness and ultimate sacrifice to save us from sin and death. All of these things are right and proper. Lent is a time for us to turn our gaze inward to our own need for a savior from the reality that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Certainly Lent is an inward season, but it cannot be exclusively so.
These verses above from Isaiah 58 were read on Ash Wednesday and it is noteworthy that they speak not of inward piety, but the fast that the Lord chooses for his people is decidedly outward. Have you ever considered fasting from your focus on self? If Lent is a time of refinement whereby the image of Christ that has been so covered up by the callousness of our self-centered sinfulness, then a truly Holy Lent is one where yes, we look inward and ask the Lord to cleanse us with his shed blood, but with those cleansed hearts we love others. As we have said so often over the last few weeks, we love not simply in word or talk, but in deed and in truth. We loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the straps of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke. We share you bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into our houses; when we see the naked, we cover him. As we make our way through this season of Lent let’s ask the Lord to open our eyes to the needs of others and to drive our wills to address those needs. What a glorious Lenten discipline that would be.
[Coming Close is a regular blog by our Dean and Rector, The Very Rev. R. Peet Dickinson IV]